Charles Leclerc may have booked his place on the second row of the grid for the Turkish Grand Prix. But the Ferrari driver said it was far from easy to even reach Q3 – while team mate Carlos Sainz wished he could join Leclerc at the front of the grid instead of starting from the back with a power unit penalty.
Having qualified P4, Leclerc will start third as P1 qualifier Lewis Hamilton has a 10-place grid penalty for the race. But in damp conditions, the Monegasque driver said his low-downforce Ferrari made for a hair-raising qualifying session on Saturday at Istanbul Park – while he thanked his team mate for providing him with a useful tow down to Turn 12 in Q2.
READ MORE: Bottas claims pole for Turkish GP as fastest driver Hamilton takes grid penalty
“It was a little bit scary,” he said. “Obviously, we opted for low-downforce set-up today, which ultimately is going to pay off for tomorrow, I hope, if it’s sunny. But in those conditions, in Q1 and Q2, I was struggling and I was sliding a lot, so it was great to see that Carlos was here to help me in Q2.
“Having the traffic in the last sector was not easy and him getting me the slipstream definitely helped me. So yes, great teamwork to get into Q3 and then a great lap in Q3 to put it in P4.”
Carlos Sainz: ‘Missed opportunity’ to not have two cars at the front in Turkey
As for his podium hopes, Leclerc – who narrowly missed out on a rostrum appearance last year after a mistake on the final lap – added: “I don’t want to get carried away too much. Obviously, it’s a great result for the team today; we are just behind Mercedes and Red Bull, which are difficult to beat for us. But we maximised the potential of the car today. I feel like we’ve got the right set-up for tomorrow’s race if it’s dry, and if it’s the case, I’m confident.”
Sainz will start from the back having taken a new Ferrari power unit this weekend – as Leclerc did in Russia – but the Spaniard wasn’t happy, given his team mate showed considerable pace and starts the Turkish GP in podium contention on Sunday.
Turkish GP Qualifying Facts & Stats: A first ever Mercedes front row slot in Turkey, and a best starting position for Alonso since 2014
Asked what he could achieve from the back, he said: “Let’s see. It all depends how the car feels in traffic and how we can go through the field, but the pace of the car looks good, so obviously disappointed not to take part in this quali as you see where Charles is right now.
“Not to have two cars up there, it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity with Lando eighth and Ricciardo 15th or 16th. Anyway, we’ll give it our best shot tomorrow, we’ll try to go through the field, and see if we can score some points,” he concluded.